If you’ve driven down Campbell Street during the past nine months, you may have noticed the major changes occurring at Valparaiso High School. Thanks to overwhelming community support and a successful referendum campaign in 2015, our well-used community building is receiving significant upgrades. But the physical environment is not the only major change occurring at VHS. After years of planning and acquiring the necessary infrastructure to support digital learning, VHS is ready to significantly expand student access to technology. Following the successful 1:1 implementation of Chromebooks this year at each of our middle schools, VHS will also unveil 1:1 digital learning for the 2017-18 school year.
By utilizing current device inventory along with devices acquired through grant funding, VHS will be able to provide a school-issued Chromebook to all freshmen and a laptop for all sophomores without any additional costs passed on to VCS families. All incoming 11th and 12th grade students will participate in the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program. This plan allows for a smooth transition from 8th grade to freshman year as the middle school students are already familiar with their Chromebooks. After gleaning experience with technology and coursework during the first two years of high school, the BYOD policy allows students to have the flexibility to make a mature, better-informed decision about which device will best fit their program of study and future interests.
As part of the 1:1 initiative, VHS will employ four part-time technology integration coaches next year who will join our K-12 technology team. These new tech coaches will with VHS teachers to effectively incorporate technology as a viable learning tool in the classroom. These tech coaches will assist teachers in maintaining the rigorous program of study we currently offer while developing the professional skills of a 21st student and employee.
In addition to expanding infrastructure and student access, Valparaiso Community Schools (VCS) adopted a robust digital student management program (Skyward) alongside a cutting-edge learning management system (Canvas) in 2015. Skyward allows teachers, students, families, and administrators to more effectively communicate regarding grades and student information. Canvas provides a vehicle for teachers to enhance learning both in and outside of their classrooms through additional support, consistent communication, and increased interactions with lesson content and peers.
Yet, even with all of these improvements and additional student equipment, most proponents of 1:1 initiatives recognize that devices and network systems are not what makes a school truly 1:1, nor do they explain why it is so vital for our students to learn in this environment. As a high school, we are in constant communication with the universities and corporations that embrace our students after graduation. Those institutions have relayed a consistent series of requests regarding the digital and interpersonal skills students should have when they leave high school. Of those requests, the more critical skills include the ability to collaborate, use various methods of communication, and engage in lifelong learning. These requests require leaders at VHS to focus on systemic change as a part of this digital initiative, affecting how classes are taught, students communicate, information is disseminated, and, ultimately, how students are prepared to work, learn and interact with an ever-increasing digital world. Just as the physical building develops with each passing day, so does our capacity for student-centered digital learning.